The Market


Bonhams’ £2.9m December 2023 Bond St sale

Bonhams’ £2.9m December 2023 Bond St sale 15th December 2023

“It’s the time of year, sir, you can buy yourself a Christmas present…” Auctioneer Malcolm Barber was full of seasonal cheer, however, other than a fine 81% sell-through, there was little about the results at Bonhams’ last classic car auction of the year to raise a glass to.

Blame the lacklustre catalogue packed with entries – mostly Astons – consigned from the firm’s usual source in the Middle East. We refer you to our recent feature on the pros and cons of these cars. Over half (55%) of the catalogue were Aston Martins – surely this has reached saturation point?

A novelty this time were the delivery mileage ‘new’ cars coming with basic recommissioning (but no new tyres) by marque specialist Stratton Motor Company. These included the colourful 2010 Aston Martin V8 Vantages that all sold well considering an across-the-board spec of LHD, unfancied Sportshift semi-automatic gearboxes and technicolour interiors.

Last year’s event was buoyed by ‘new’ Mercedes SLR McLarens and AMG G-wagens. With nothing similar this time, the gross inevitably suffered.

At a glance:

* Gross, motor cars: £2,872,125 (2022, £6,302,700)
* Percentage sold by number: 81% (2022, 72%)
* Top-selling car: 1990 Aston Martin V8 Vantage X-Pack £356,500 gross, £310,000 net (est. £180k to £240k)
* Well sold? The V8 Vantage X-Pack. Formerly in the ‘Hunter Green Collection’ – not such a nice colour in daylight – this ex-Kuwaiti car was a RHD-to-LHD / manual-to-auto conversion. But not red, unlike the much better car not sold later in the auction.
* Well bought? Where do you see yourself in three- or four-years’ time? At £178,250 gross for another Middle East Aston, this DB6 Mk2 Vantage might seem cheap, even with lipstick red paintwork and RHD. Add the usual customs duties to this, plus £250k-£300k for restoration at one of the UK's preeminent specialists (to original white, not ideal) and it’s time to dust off the crystal ball.

The early 911 (£304,750 with premium, 1st RHD car so significant) was an only average example that went well in the circumstances against an unrealistic estimate. In a highly specialised field, the 1957 Porsche 356A Carrera 1500GS was never going to sell, and in a difficult environment for the model, the ‘Plexi’ Daytona coupé was just not good enough to find a buyer at even a reasonable £450k to £550k. It lacked its original interior and needed restoration to correct silver with black: slightly boring to today’s eyes.

Four pre-War cars were entered, rather touchingly, as the last request from the late Richard Evans, owner of the Manx Motor Museum. This is core Bonhams territory and testament to the work done by Robert Brooks, James Knight and Malcom Barber over the years to assiduously look after older collectors and their preference for the early cars. None made much money, though all proceeds generously went to the Science Museum. In a world of sometimes cynical, hard-nosed buyers of more modern product, the process is unlikely to be repeated today. “Dad always wanted his paint-to-sample, 120km-only Porsche 911R to be sold by…” We don’t think so.

Other than this nice story, there was no fairy-tale ending to business in Europe in 2023. It remains a tough market with occasional shows of promise such as RM’s Munich sale ‘Daytona’ Spider and Bonhams' epic €26.8m at Zoute.

Next stop is normally the January Arizona auctions but these are a shadow of their former selves: only Bonhams and RM are in Scottsdale, and both will conduct a sale on the same day.

Local outfit Mecum has pulled a rabbit out of a 10-gallon hat by offering several significant Ferraris at its mid-January Kissimmee, Florida, event. How would-be buyers of gold standard European cars such as the NART Spider take to the watersplash world of Disneyland Orlando remains to be seen. Expect K500 to let you know and have the inside line on what went on amongst the alligators.

We wish all our readers and subscribers Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Bonhams in Bond St, 15 December 2023 – results (2022)

Total gross cars: £2,872,125 (£6,302,700)
Number of cars not sold: 6 (8)
Number of cars withdrawn: 0 (1)
Total number of cars: 31 (29)
Number sold: 25 (21)
Percentage cars sold by number: 81% (72%)
Percentage by value average low/high estimate: 50% (73%)
Percentage of cars sold below low estimate: 40% (19%)
Percentage of cars sold not met avge of estimates: 72% (29%)
Percentage of cars sold met/exceeded top estimate: 8% (38%)
Average value of cars sold: £114,885 (£300,129)
Average year of cars offered: 1979 (1981)
Percentage of cars offered at No Reserve: 48% (55%)
Percentage of Aston Martins 55% (21%)

Photos by K500